What kind of edit do you need?

Photo Credit: Flickr by Nic McPhee

Photo Credit: Flickr by Nic McPhee

Over the past year, I’ve learned that the word edit is complex. It’s a verb and noun, a punishment and a blessing. It refers to major overhauls and precise tinkering. But when you send your work to a CP or editors, there are two general types of editing you can ask for:

Developmental edit: Following the completion of a rough draft or second draft, a new set of eyes to read over the work and look for big issues like plot holes, pacing, characterization issues, and story flow is very helpful. This will give you an opportunity to get feedback on the basic story line. The real meat and potatoes of your writing.

Line edit: This edit should come much later… after you’ve addressed the flagged sections by either rewriting or deleting them. The focus here is on the grammar and mechanics of your work. After you’ve combed through your work and have polished your p’s and q’s, then ask your critique partner or an editor for a line edit. They can help spot finer issues before sending it out.

The first time I exchanged work with someone, I wanted everything noted. Plot holes, dangling participles… the works. But after experiencing the editing process from a different vantage point, I learned that while we might want all the feedback at once, it should come in stages.

And critiquing someone’s work takes time. Make sure you maximize your partner’s efforts and time by asking for the type of help you really need. If you still have plot issues to hash out, or you’re rewriting a bit of the story line, you aren’t quite ready for a line edit.

Having a critique partner (or several critique partners) is an essential step for writers. They’re your sounding board, your grammar police, your private investigator, and your closest ally. Create a symbiotic relationship that flourishes with time.

When you edit a manuscript with a two-tiered mindset, the process will help you grow as a writer because you’re analyzing the story on different levels. And learning is part of the journey.









5 thoughts on “What kind of edit do you need?

  1. Hi Elsie -outstanding info! Even though I consider myself an “occasional” essayist and am not a novelist, I find your teachings very helpful. I am a conscious editor of my work, but to have the clarification between development edit and line edit will improve my efforts.


    • Sammy, Thanks so much for stopping by. Your comments bring a smile to my face 😀

      Sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner. I was at the beach on vacation last week. (Braving Hurricane Andrew off the NC coast… out of the direct path.) I hope you had a great week.


      • That’s ok -you should never feel obligated to respond. My opinion is blogging friendships, once established, can withstand periods of silence or posts without comment because we all have lots of “pulls” on our time. It’s nice to build a community like that 🙂

        Must have been a tad scary in the buildup to the hurricane. Glad you weren’t hit, and hope your trip was otherwise enjoyable. I’ve never been to Outer Banks or the Carolina’s. It’s on my list ! (But not during a hurricane)


  2. Reblogged this on Abby J Reed and commented:
    Since I’m still in the editing stages of my RBRP manuscript and wrote a post about it recently, I thought this post by Elsie Elmore was helpful. It’s a brief overview of different types of edits, and useful for ANY type of editing–a paper, thesis, proposal, a novel…


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